As a writer’s disclaimer, I want to warn you that this article is not about racing. Rather it’s about life, and recognizing the dire needs of those around you.
Pretty much anybody who knows me will tell you where my passions in life reside. Right behind my love for my family is my passion for racing and music.
In fact, as much as racing means to me, music is equally as important in my life.
It’s my release. It’s my sanctuary. It’s my safe place.
As a young teenager in the early 1990’s so many songs and groups made an impact on me. Definitely an integral part of the soundtrack of that point in my life was the band Soundgarden.
Songs like Black Hole Sun and Fell on Black Days seemed to resound with me as I shuffled aimlessly through those ever-so-awkward years of adolescence. I know I definitely wasn’t alone.
Their new sound and poignant lyrics struck a nerve with many of my friends as we battled through the adversities that come with growing up. The confusing struggle for finding who you are, who you want to be, and most importantly, who you don’t want to be.
On Thursday, May 18, 2017 I awoke to learn the news that our world had lost a talented musician. As most of us slept the previous night, Chris Cornell had passed away following a concert in Detroit.
Cornell – who fronted multiple successful acts like Soundgarden and Audioslave – was found dead in his Detroit hotel room. Preliminary indications pointed toward the likelihood that he had taken his own life.
For throngs of fans around the world the entire situation was a shocker. I was no different.
Just 11 days prior I had finally seen Cornell perform for the first time ever in my life, when he and Soundgarden headlined the Beale Street Music Festival, in my hometown of Memphis.
Now less than two weeks later he was gone forever. Just like that, his book was closed.
While the past decade had appeared to be an upswing for the 52-year-old, his past was anything but perfect. From drug issues that developed as a teenager – to lifelong depression – he had battled a little bit of everything.
In fact, it’s been suggested that his depression had recently resurfaced to contribute to his untimely passing.
All the talent. All the fame. All the money. A beautiful family. At the end of the day it didn’t equal happiness.
As all of this news broke it definitely hit home for me. In addition to feeling sadness that our world had lost an incredibly talented man, I felt for his family. The trials and tribulations of dealing with the rollercoaster that depression and mental illness can invoke on those around you can be a personal hell.
I’ve been there with my own family.
My late grandmother, who raised me, battled both depression and bipolar disorder. My late mother also battled severe depression.
Odds are pretty good that many of you have directly or indirectly dealt with similar situations within your own family and friends. After all, one-in-five Americans experience some type of mental illness within a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Some people, who have never been exposed to someone they love battling these disorders might say that depression and/or mental illness is nonsense. They ignorantly think it’s something that can simply be turned off or made to go away.
Sometimes they might even say that those suffering from depression are to blame because they should’ve just gone and asked for help.
From my perspective, these people couldn’t be anymore wrong. It’s just not that easy.
Mental illness is a disease. Like any other disease, rarely does it go away on its own. You need help for it.
When you have the flu, you go to the doctor. After all, you’re sick and need help.
If you break a bone, you go to the doctor. The bone isn’t likely to heal on its own.
Mental illness is no different.
There’s no shame in asking for help. Similarly, there’s no shame in confronting a loved one and telling them that they need help.
It could ultimately be the difference in life or death.
Watching for years as my loved ones battled these vicious illnesses, I quickly realized they can significantly distort views of life and the surrounding world. Certain situations can quickly appear to be totally hopeless, when in reality they aren’t bad at all.
From the chronicles and interviews I’ve read, it seems this is something that Cornell battled throughout his life.
It’s likely his friends, family, bandmates, and everyone else around him are second guessing everything they saw and heard from him in the past week. Perhaps they are wondering if they could’ve somehow prevented this.
Only Cornell and the good Lord knows the answer to that question.
If anything can be taken from this though, it’s that we all need to stay vigilant in observing those that mean the most to us. Sometimes when you are living with an illness you can’t see it yourself. But the ones around you can.
Don’t be afraid to confront your loved ones if you think they are headed down a bad road or are in a bad mental state.
Sure, it’s not an easy conversation to have. None of us really want to do it.
Conversely though, none of us want to be lying a loved one to rest far before their time has come.
It’s almost eerie to me that Cornell’s own words from his band’s hit song, Fell on Black Days, ultimately came to tell his own fate. He penciled the lyrics over two decades ago to describe the onset of a depression that he first began to notice as a child.
Before I leave you with an impactful verse from this fated song, I’ll state my final pleas.
First, don’t be afraid to proactively help those that you love. It’s hard, but do it anyway
Last, but not least, if you are mentally struggling please don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re here for you and want to help.
There’s zero shame in either scenario. In reality, it is a show of great courage.
Depression is not an easy illness to overcome. In many cases it’s a long-running battle. However, it’s better to fight the fight daily than to just ignore it and hope it will go away.
Take care my friends.
Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life
Whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life
Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile
Sunspots have faded and now I’m doing time
Now I’m doing time
‘Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days
– Fell On Black Days, Soundgarden